Lettuce Be Friends Tee [check out the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale!] // Sunnies [These ones are currently on sale for $115 OFF!] // Shorts [Currently Buy One Get One 50% Off!] // Lipgloss // Sneakers // Bag // Bracelets
Get To Know Me!
Hi friends! I’m switching things up a bit today. In most of my blog posts, I talk about the clothes I’m wearing and items I’m loving. Rarely do I dig deep and let you guys in on who I am and what I’m about. I’m a pretty private person, which is odd considering I’ve chosen a hobby and career [and yes it’s a career] to put myself out there for anyone and everyone to see…to judge.
Recently, I’ve been talking to fellow blogger friends about certain companies and people forgetting the fact that we are real people with real feelings. I’d rather not rant about all of the negativity associated with blogging. We can save that for another day! Instead, I want to get a little more personal than what you’d typically find on my posts. Hopefully you’ll still want to follow me at the end of this! 😉
In Long Island, New York, born and raised. On the playground where I spent most of my days. [Sorry, I couldn’t help myself! The Fresh Prince of Bel Air song will now be stuck in my head for the next week!] Anyway, I grew up in Baldwin Harbor to be exact. When I was 16 years old, my parents broke the news that we’d be moving to South Florida [where my Mom’s side of the family is from] the summer before my junior year of high school. At the time, my older brother was in college and my younger sister was making the transition from elementary school to middle school, so it definitely affected me the most. I was devastated. Had a ton of friends… participated in practically every sport and school activity that existed. I was even Homecoming Queen my freshman and sophomore years!
The first day at my new school in Florida felt like an episode from Beverly Hills 90210. It was so overwhelming to be surrounded by 4 times the amount of students who didn’t have a clue who I was or that I was even new. I pathetically ate lunch in the bathroom the first day because I was so intimidated. [I realize that sounds really gross, but it’s true! haha!] Thank god for my obnoxious Long Island accent and pretty “J” necklace that sparked up a conversation with a girl named Jodi who introduced me to her group of girls that I’m still friends with to this day.
Looking back, the move to Florida was THE BEST thing that could have ever happened to me. It was a humbling experience that helped me become more independent and confident. I finished those two years of high school and chose to stay in Florida for college, attending Florida State University, the greatest school on earth!
With a last name Cittadino, it may be hard to believe that I’m Jewish. My paternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors and I grew up in a conservative temple, attending hebrew school and Saturday services regularly. [Fun Fact: I can read, write, and speak in Hebrew. I just don’t know what the words actually translate to so can’t engage in conversation.] To me, Judaism is so much more than a religion and I feel a responsibility for Harley and my future children to know everything that my Nanny and Poppy had to go through. Unfortunately, by the time my kids are old enough to know and understand such world events, that generation will be long gone.
Casey [my hubby] was also raised Jewish. His father, however is Italian Catholic which is how we have a last name that means citizen in Italiano. He’s my pizza bagel! We celebrate Christmas every year with his father’s side of the family and have the best time doing so!
Casey & Harley
I met Casey when I was 12 years old at a friend’s Bar Mitzvah party and instantly fell in love! No joke. It was love at first site! Well for me, not for him! All the girls liked Casey and he sure liked all the girls! Haha! He was two grades older than me so I didn’t really have any type of friendship with him until we were both in high school together a few years later. We had a secret love affair for a few months before I moved to Florida and he went off to college. Fast forward 7 years, we saw each other when he was visiting some family in Florida [he was living in New York], maybe talked on the phone casually two or three times after that. Next thing I knew, I was booking a flight to spend New Year’s Eve with him. We went from zero to a hundred and after a year of going back and forth from Florida to New York, I moved in with him. We got engaged in October of 2011 and married in November the following year. If I said things were absolutely perfect, that would be a straight up lie. We bicker, get annoyed with each other, and don’t always agree on everything. BUT, I do believe he’s my soulmate and my person, and I couldn’t imagine doing life without him.
Harley is our daughter for those of you who don’t follow my Snapchats [username: Jaime_Cittadino] or may be new here. She will be two in September, which is SO crazy to me! Everyone and their mother keeps asking when number two is coming, but honestly, I’m just enjoying this precious time I have with her. She is growing up way too fast! I want to cry thinking about it!
Harley was born in Charlotte, North Carolina which is where Casey and I moved to right after we got married. We lived there for three years and absolutely LOVED it! If it were up to Casey, we’d still be living there. The city is beautiful, people are super friendly, and you definitely can’t beat the weather… a true four seasons. After having Harley, it was really hard being away from family, so we moved down to Florida last October. We’re in the process of house hunting in the Boca area and plan on being down here for good. Casey’s parents and brother are still up in New York, along with tons of extended family and friends, so we make it a point to go up as often as we can to visit. As I type this, I’m sitting in my inlaws family room and will be here for the next month!
Work & Blogging
I started Sunflowers and Stilettos in April of 2013 as a hobby after Casey and I made the move from New York to Charlotte. At the time, I was really looking for more of an outlet. Never thought it was something that could turn into a side business or career. I do have a full time job in addition to blogging. I’ve worked in the Medical Sales industry since graduating college and have been with my current Home Healthcare agency for over six and a half years. When Casey and I decided to leave New York almost four years ago, my company offered to change my role a bit and allow me to work from home. We weren’t really sure if and how it was going to work out, but luckily it has been going well and I’m so thankful for that. When people hear that I work from home, they automatically assume that it’s a piece of cake which couldn’t be further from the truth. I put in well over 50 hours a week and am sometimes on call during the nights and weekends.
In last night’s Instagram post, I asked you guys if there was anything specific you wanted me to cover today and got tons of questions, so am going to cover some of them now:
How does your job allow summers in NY and most of the year in South Florida?
I just shared with you that I work from home, so can pretty much work anywhere there is internet and cell reception! Casey also works from home. He’s the Vice President of Sales for a sports nutrition company called Eat The Bear. Their Chocolate Peanut Butter protein powder is the best thing ever! He travels a lot for work and is also very involved in the Lacrosse community [played professionally for 9 years]. When he’s not on the road, he’s home on the phone allllll day, so the two of us have to stay on opposite ends of the house! There are great things and some not so great things associated with working from home, but overall, I’m super happy with my situation and feel fortunate to have a great job! Plus, perks like not having to put on a bra if I don’t want to are priceless! LOL!
How long did it take you to get so many followers here [meaning Instagram]?
A LONG TIME! When I first started blogging, I was CLUELESS. My posts were infrequent and I just didn’t even know where to start and what to focus on. My Instagram account was a personal one. Slowly over time, I started sharing more outfit posts and referencing my blog to promote it as best I could. If you scroll all the way down my feed, you’ll see what an amateur I was! I’d say it took a good two years to build up my following to what it is now. I’m just shy of 30,000 followers. To some that’s a lot, to others it’s nothing! Some people are able to build their following crazy fast and may be able to get to 30k in less than a year. I’m not one of them. I do think that I’m growing at a normal, genuine rate and finally feel like my hard work is paying off! I’d love to grow my engagement and think ultimately that is way more important than the number of followers.
How do you find balance being a blogger, a mom, a wife, and having a full time job?
It’s a constant struggle! Most days I feel overwhelmed and exhausted! Harley goes to pre-school Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm while I’m working my “regular job.” I often stay up really late blogging or wake up at 4:30 in the morning to finish a post. I wish I had the time to blog 5 days a week, but I can’t physically give any more time to it than I already do. It’s so hard to shut it down…close the computer and put the phone away, but obviously my husband and my daughter are my priority so it’s something I have to do. I want to enjoy life with them and be present! AND, I reallyyyyy don’t want my daughter to grow up with a cell phone in her mother’s face 24/7.
I often feel like a terrible person because it’s so hard seeing and catching up with friends who I love, miss, and care about! Adulting is no joke and there really aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I need and want to do. Unfortunately my “me time” is pretty much non-existent.
I know it sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m not! Just want to be real with you guys and show you that life isn’t as glamorous as it may appear. I’ve learned to love my crazy, sleepless, workaholic life and know one day I’ll look back and miss these years.
How does your spouse support your blogging?
Casey is my biggest fan and really supports me in everything in life, including blogging. He’s far from an Instagram Husband though and is NOT my designated photographer like a lot of blogger hubbies are. He does get frustrated with me if he feels neglected or if I’m on my phone too much. If I explain to him that I have a deadline on a certain collaboration or am doing something important/time sensitive, he is very understanding. He’s actually the one who has encouraged me to write an E-book [which will be available next year] and even helped me brainstorm the title, tagline, and subject!
What’s your favorite thing[s] about being a blogger?
I started this blog to have an outlet, so blogging is very therapeutic for me. My favorite thing though would have to be connecting with so many different people, whether they be fellow bloggers, people who work for companies I collaborate with, or just readers of mine. I’ve gained a ton of amazing people in my life that I met through blogging and social media.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve been able to do from blogging?
Attending NYFW for the first time was probably my favorite experience so far. Being able to make additional income for my family while doing something I love is also a really cool thing that I’ve gained from blogging.
What are you most proud of when it comes to blogging?
I try to celebrate each and every milestone that validates me as a blogger, whether it’s being featured on LIKEtoKNOW.it’s IG page, or receiving an email from a fellow toddler mom, thanking me for providing them inspiration to get dressed for the day. Knowing I’ve made some kind of impression and positive impact makes me so happy!
I’m super proud of my little space on the internet and not allowing fear, insecurities, and excuses get the best of me. Putting yourself out there for people to critique is a very scary thing! I truly love blogging and have so many ideas and plans for Sunflowers and Stilettos.
How long does the editing process for your blog take?
Most of my photos are from professional photographers with high quality cameras and lenses, so there’s not much editing that needs to be done with the pictures posted. When editing photos myself, I use Lightroom which is a great program and makes editing easy. As far as writing/editing blog posts, well, that’s a whole other story! It takes me forever! Even posts that have a few brief sentences can take me days to put together!
What’s something you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started blogging? What advice do you have for beginner bloggers?
Ummm SO MUCH! I think I may write a separate post answering these two questions! To briefly reply, I’d say be sure to stay true to who you are as a person and as a brand. Be consistent. Be real. Focus on quality over quantity. Try to be unique! More to come on this topic…
What are your biggest challenges in blogging and how do you overcome them?
I’m technologically retarded when it comes to computers, writing in code, understanding SEO, and operating a camera. I watch tons of youtube tutorials to try to learn everything I can myself versus relying on other people! I should outsource some things, but haven’t gotten there yet.
My biggest challenge is time, or lack thereof which I’ve already touched on. It can sometimes feel impossible trying to find the time to take photos, write a post, get my newsletter out [SUBSCRIBE HERE], be active on all social media channels, attend different events, network, respond to emails, communicate with brands, and engage with my readers and followers. I overcome them by keeping organized with an editorial calendar, prioritizing, and not beating myself up if I missed an event or need an extra day or two to get my post up. If I’m feeling too overwhelmed, I’ll put away my computer, try to get a good workout in, take a long bath, press the re-set button and start fresh the next day.
I received questions about my skincare routine and requests for different hair tutorials which I’ve been planning to do via video for a long time now. You’ll start to see more video content next year for all things beauty related, but I will do my best to get some blog posts up between now and then that touch on this topic.
If money and time weren’t a barrier, what would you do?! What’s your biggest wildest dream?!
Travel! I know it sounds so cliché but I really do want to explore the world! I’d love to give Harley the opportunity to experience other cultures first hand. Riding elephants in Bali, snowboarding in the Dolomites… going on an African safari. I want to do and see it all!
Nacho Cheese Doritos or Cool Ranch?
This is by far my favorite question! Haha!! Nacho Cheese, hands down.
Where do you see yourself in 2 years?
It’s safe to say we’ll be a family of four by then, so I’m sure things will go to a whole nother level of crazy!
New York pizza. I’d eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I could! And since we’re on the topic of delicious and unhealthy carbs from New York, let’s also give special attention to the everything bagel, scooped with plain cream cheese [not too heavy], nova or lox, tomato, and onion. Crap, and then there’s french fries. It’s hard to resist a thin, crispy fry. Yummmm.
I swear, I’m not the fat ass I’m making myself out to be. We happen to eat really healthy, but if I’m answering these questions honestly, then well…that’s my honest answer!
Beverage of choice?
I’m an H2O drinker. All day, every day. Sometimes I’ll get fancy and add different fruits in it. My favorite combo is lemon, cucumber, and mint.
For alcoholic beverages, I love me some red wine… Malbec or Cabernet are the usual go to’s. I can drink a glass every night if I wanted to, but I do try to limit the amount of alcohol during the week days. A vodka water [or club soda] with lemon is my usual order when out at a bar. If I know a place makes a really good Dirty Martini, then I’ll order one. It has to be just right though!
Whew! I know this was a long one and I probably shared wayyyy more information than you care about. I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this and learn more about me! THANK YOU all for your amazing support and encouragement! If there are any more questions you have for me, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below!
Photos by Andrea